Send a Wire to the Main Office and Tell Them I Said "OW!"

So I was out geocaching, which sends you off-trail where the footing isn’t the best. I weebled and wobbled and instinctively reached out for a nearby tree. Which was this

I did not, needless to say, grab for very long. Fortunately my time in the navy has afforded me a vocabulary appropriate for the situation. I haven’t encountered this tree before and don’t know what it is. Can anyone identify it from this picture? It’s about 4″ in diameter.

9 thoughts on “Send a Wire to the Main Office and Tell Them I Said "OW!"

  1. Maybe something in the Ceiba genus???

    Poke around with some keywords like bombax, kapok, or silk cotton tree.

    Problem is, these are tropical trees – Mexican not Maryland. Also, they can grow very large.

    But the problems don’t absolutely rule out these possible identifications, as there can always be an invasive found in an odd location, and perhaps it’s small because it’s young or stunted.

    Any chance you can get a leaf?

    I understand that spikes on bark are often used by trees to store water for dry periods, so there’s more going on here than the obvious defensive explanation.

  2. Also, check out the Zanthoxylem genus (Prickly Ash, Hercules Club, Tooth Ache Tree, and their various cousins) Many of these are a much better geographic and climatic fit to Maryland.

  3. When I was a kid I used to live on an acreage property in a more rural part of where I live now. We had a huge tree out the very back that was covered in thorns. Kind of like this:

    A little different to your one, but no less bewildering. A friend told us it looked like something they’d seen in South Africa, though I’ve never thought to look it up since.

    As for identification of your plant, you didn’t happen to notice if it had any leaves?

  4. It had some leaves up top, but I didn’t think to snap a mug shot of them. They didn’t pierce my hand.

  5. Don’t recognize it, though I actually know my eastern trees better than those here in the PNW, where I became fixated on rocks. We DO have one out here, a viney little monster, called “devil’s club.” It’s habitat is wet, steep slippery slopes where people are likely to fall down and want to grab something to keep from sliding. It’s name is very much appropriate.

    There are several thorny locust trees in the east, black locust an honey locust, if I recall, and also some of the crabapples are thorny, but your photo doesn’t look like any of those.

  6. It looks to me like a devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa). I see them a lot in wet woods. They have large twice-compound leaves and get berries and fruit that look similar to elderberries.

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